Thursday, August 21, 2008

FOR REAL: Clint Mathis

FOR REAL: Clint Mathis
We caught up with Clint Mathis on the heels of him being interviewed by Brad Rock. He was very gratious and gave very direct answers. It's clear that he understands the perceptions of him that are out there and part of his motivation is to prove those perceptions wrong.

1. What was your experience in Greece like? It was nice. It was a little different mentality. The way things are ran over there and what not, but I enjoyed my time over there. But the reason I decided not to renew my contract is because I decided not to move my family over there. My wife was getting ready to have a baby and I just made the decision to come back to the States.
2. How does a Southern boy from Conyers, GA. fit into a place like Greece or Germany? That’s no problem. The first city I moved to was LA and after that New York. So I got used to learning how to live in big cities pretty quick so it wasn’t too much of a transition.
3. Before you went to Greece you had a chance to play with Donovan and Beckham which would have been interesting from a fan perspective, what would have that been like? It’s funny because I thought that was going to happen not only that time, but when I came back from Greece I was training with those guys because they still owned my rights. But it was a process where getting a contract done was taking a while, and then I had this opportunity to go to Greece and so I took that because I didn’t know how long it was going to take or what was going to come out of it.
4. Why coming back to RSL? You’ve talked about some unfinished business. Yeah I think after the experience I had after the first season I took a lot of heat with the media for the team not doing well and granted I didn’t play well in the first half of the season. I thought I played pretty well in the second half of the season, but I enjoyed it here. I think the fans are great, the organizations great, and the ownership is great. Especially with Jason being the coach and changing out a lot of the personnel, this club definitely has a lot of potential. Not only to get their first playoff berth, but to also get their first championship. I think Jason’s done an excellent job of this, and they have shown it all season. Not only to move back here, which me and my wife love the area – we lived in Park City and love Salt Lake City, but to come here and play with a team that’s doing well. Hopefully I can add some of my experience to this team to potentially win a championship.
5. You mentioned the ’05 season, what was that like? It was like a never-ending nightmare. We just had a downward spiral where we just lost game after game. We actually had some good players. We just couldn’t gell as a team and even when we did, we just couldn’t get the result. It was a frustrating thing, not only a learning experience for the players , but also for the front office and the organization itself in a fairly new league. So it was tough.
6. Do you feel like from your personal situation that maybe too much pressure was put on you as a player? I think that there was, but that’s just part of having this job. Sometimes that you have to, and you know that the career that I had before that, I was doing well so there were some expectations from me and that’s just part of it. But at the same time I didn’t fulfill those, and even when I did it didn’t turn out well because we weren’t winning. You know I think that if we would have won more games things would have gotten overlooked a little more. I wouldn’t have been pinpointed as much, but at the same time it didn’t bother me. I needed to deal with that pressure and you know it’s a life learning experience as well.
7. In the ’02 World Cup it seemed like there was a lot of pressure on you as well, was that a similar situation or different? I think it’s different. You know as far as a franchise you have a longer term goal there, and with the World Cup it’s just a month long and then you go back to your club. So I think it’s a longer stint of it, where it’s hard to bounce back, whereas the World Cup you can bounce back in a game, but in the league you have 30+ games.
8. When ultimately you were traded to Colorado, what was that like for you, were there any hard feelings? Were you kind of relieved to be out of here? I was very disappointed. I did not want to leave. It wasn’t my decision to jump ship. I think that some people perceived it that way. I didn’t ask to get traded, that’s something that the organization decided. I was disappointed, but it is a business and when you sign on the dotted line you’ve gotta be prepared for that. But this is another reason for deciding to come back here. Cause it would be a difficult decision to come back to a team that didn’t want you. I look forward to it as a new stepping stone, and almost a new team. All the front office people are different and it’s almost not like coming back even to the same team.
9. What do you feel as far as specific skills that you have to offer this team with the team that’s around you? And how do you see yourself contributing over these last 10 matches? I need to continue to get fit, cause I haven’t played since in Greece. So I’m working really hard to do that. I think bringing my experience internationally to come in – when to press a game, when to slow down, and to help finish off a game. I think I’m good in those situations to hold the ball and kill off a game. And I think I’m also universal as far as position-wise. I can play up front, I can play outside mid, I can play holding mid or attacking mid, depending on what Jason sees me at or depending on injuries.
10. Where do you ideally see yourself at in this stage in your career? Are you a striker or an outside mid? I think one of the guys in the midfield, for the most part. But sometimes I could be second striker coming off a guy that holds the ball, but right now I want to play wherever it’s going to help the team. It doesn’t bother me if it’s … goalie. I hope it doesn’t get to that point, but I’ll play wherever Jason needs me. Whether that’s coming off the bench, or whatever it is, it’s no worry of mine. My job is to go out and do the best that I can whenever I’m out there.
11. There is some concern among the fans about team chemistry – this team has been built on really strong team chemistry this year – how do you see yourself fitting in? Do you think that’s going to be an issue at all? No problem at all. I think that’s one thing that people really don’t know about me. I enjoy the team atmosphere. When we’re away from the field we always get together. Every team I go to, we usually have barbeques at my house to get everyone together. I like the whole team chemistry and all the guys doing things together because I think that really builds trust. I have no problem doing that. Just people look at me as the outcast or wild child. And that’s totally not me.
12. I think the concern would maybe come more from in the past you have always had the star role. That’s not a problem whatsoever. It goes back to doing whatever is best for this team. I could care less about being the guy on the magazine. That’s just less interviews and less I have to do with you guys.
13. I assume you are familiar with the mantra that Jason has – “the team is the star”. Oh yeah.
14. How do you think you’ve changed as a player over the years, and what will RSL fans see differently out of you this time around? I think a lot calmer as far as per se “controversial” or always saying things to the refs or getting into it with other players. I’m still feisty when I need to get into tackles, but I think they’ll see a more mellow Clint.
15. Even though you picked up your first yellow pretty quick? I thought it was a great tackle. I didn’t even think that was a foul, but that’s just me.
16. How easy or hard is it to come in and play for a coach that you played alongside? I wouldn’t say it’s hard. I think the one thing we talked about is the friendship versus the business. And if that was ever going to interfere then I wouldn’t come here. But I think we understand that business is business and if we ever see each other away from soccer then we can be friends. But I told him just to be honest with him and he said the same thing to me. If I have a problem to just be honest. Because if we start holding things from each other so we won’t hurt each others feelings then its going to hurt our friendship. So I think we’ve got that understanding. I know what he wants as a player and I think he wants the same things as a coach. You know he’s very strict. He’s fitness oriented. He wants the team chemistry. He wants everyone working together. I’ve understood that when I’ve played with him before. And so the transition was easy as far as knowing what he wants. The important thing was just making sure the friendship thing and the business thing don’t overlap, and we’ve had zero problems with that.
17. You’ve mentioned some of Jason’s expectations, which include some of those general expectations, do you see some specific expectations that he has from you? I think it’s just to get as fit as I can. I haven’t played since the beginning of May. I’ve been training. I’ve told him I’d do whatever he wanted me to, and I’ll continue to do that. It’s like you can do whatever you want to me. Whether it’s give me fitness every day, or once I am fit play me as a starter or as a sub, you do whatever you want me to. I think he wants me to come in, because he still thinks I can play and help this team. I need to continue to get fit and once I’m fit to play 90 or whatever my role is just to go out there and do what I’m good at. Trying to control the game, create chances, finish off those chances and just help win ball games.
18. How quickly can that come together that fitness since we have two months left? Obviously I’m working hard and it’s hard when I’m going in, but each game I’m building up fitness. In Houston, in that heat, I played 30 maybe next time I get 60 or even 45. Every time you are playing a little longer. It’s different and you can train all the time, but until you get in the game it’s different. So every time you can get in the game it helps. It just depends if he thinks that I can help the team for that long or if I would hurt the team. So the more time that I get in the game it’s going to help me quicker to get 90 minutes fit.
19. So you’re confident that you can get your fitness to a level to contribute pretty quickly? For sure. Definitely. Cause I plan on playing in the playoffs as well.
20. So I don’t know the specifics of your deal, is that just a this-year deal? Yeah just now. I have options, but it’s going to be up to the team.